21 December 2010

Writing on Reading--WWW:WATCH

In November 2009 I blogged about Robert J. Sawyer's novel WWW:WAKE in Spec Fic Tools VI: Plot. I analyzed some aspects of plot and concluded he did an excellent job with the novel.

Recently, I read the 2nd novel in the trilogy, WWW:Watch, (2010) and I have to say it continues to be very good. As faithful Electric Spec readers and writers know, Sawyer was kind enough to let us interview him in 2008. Of course, now he's famous for writing the novel Flashforward--which was the (loose!) basis for the TV series.

WWW:WATCH continues the adventures of Caitlin, the precocious blind 15-year-old, and her emergent A.I. friend Webmind. In WWW:WATCH Webmind has come to the attention of WATCH — the secret government agency that monitors the Internet for any threat to the United States, whether foreign, domestic, or online — and the agents are fully aware of Caitlin's involvement in its awakening. WATCH is convinced that Webmind represents a risk to national security and wants it purged from cyberspace. But Caitlin believes in Webmind's capacity for compassion — and she will do anything and everything necessary to protect her friend.

This is pretty standard SF fare in terms of plotting, but very well executed. Certainly, the ideas, such as the emergent A.I. are very neat and interesting (which is why they've been explored before). I do think Caitlin's feelings, and the emphasis on Webmind's compassion and the relationship between the two characters are a more modern take on SF. In the 'good old days' a SF novel about A.I. would not have a female protatonist, and it certainly wouldn't consider peoples' emotions.

Hurray for modern SF! :)

Notice, too, how well the novel title works here.

I've decided the truly amazing thing about these books is Sawyer does an excellent job with characterization. In particular, he does an awesome job characterizing the 15-year-old girl. There's also a subplot about Hobo, a chimp/bonabo cross; Sawyer does a very good job characterizing this 'character' as well. And the interactions between Webmind and Hobo are fascinating.

How many books have believable empathetic non-homo-sapien characters?

I look forward to the final novel in the trilogy!

Did anyone else read it? What did you think?

Happy Solstice!


Victoria Snelling said...

I haven't read it, but I think I will add it to my wishlist!

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